Department of Linguistics,
Prefixation, infixation, alliteration, and other iambic effects in Khmer
The iambic effect in Khmer is well-attested in the treatment of borrowed words from Indic languages. The degree of reduction of an initial syllable is one very solid index of the degree to which such a word has been assimilated
One result of the iambic effect is that initial unstressed syllables are forever being "restored" -- originally in careful speech, and later, possibly via reinterpretation/exaptation, as (frequently nearly meaningless) infixes. This provides a plausible account for the most productive infix, -Vm(n)-.
The same alternation between full and reduced semi-syllables may be at the root of the alternation between two causative prefixes throughout M-K: bVn- and p-. Semantically there is no plausible reason why both could not have derived from the success verb baan, which also has congeners throughout the family.
The pressure to reduce the initial
syllable in sesquisyllabic roots may be responsible for reducing the initial
word in asymmetric compounds (such as Auxiliary +